Tag: Erik Brynjolfsson

Automation is different this time

Monday, 12 June, 2017 0 Comments

The automation of the past industrial revolutions will be different to the automation of the future industrial revolutions. That’s because our information age is fundamentally different to the preceding agrarian and industrial ages. Past automation led to higher productivity and created new and better jobs for an expanding, urbanizing population; future automation will happen much faster globally and outpace the creation of new jobs for migrating humans.

These arguments have been discussed by a range of futurists, especially Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, and by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who together wrote The Second Machine Age. Adhering to this somewhat dystopian line, Nicholas Carr, author of The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, says: “There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.” Recently, the Munich-based YouTube channel Kurzgesagt sampled their core ideas for a video titled “The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time.”

Whither work?

Thursday, 17 November, 2016 0 Comments

“It’s one of the dirty secrets of economics: technology progress does grow the economy and create wealth, but there is no economic law that says everyone will benefit.” — Erik Brynjolfsson

Who he? The Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and author of the best-selling The Second Machine Age, is he. Brynjolfsson maintains that in the race against the machine, some are likely to win while many are likely to lose. It’s a view that’s gaining traction as pessimism about the role of technology in a globalized economy increases, but Stephen DeWitt is more optimistic.

He’s held senior positions at HP, Cisco and Symantec, but instead of retiring, he became the CEO at Work Market, a rapidly-growing platform that’s reformulating the worker-employer equation. Backed by New York VC Fred Wilson, Work Market helps connect workers with companies that need to get stuff done.

The concept isn’t new. The “gig economy” of Uber and TaskRabbit is familiar to many, but DeWitt believes that this “on demand economy” will include all kinds of work eventually. Millions of people are stuck in jobs that are unnecessary and inefficient, he argues, and points out that by 2030 there will be 3.2 billion skilled workers on earth, all connected to the internet. Will a company filled with full time workers be the ideal model then? Or might the model be an agile core of managers assigning work to a network of workers competing for projects based on their skills, reputations and their ability to deliver results? That could spell the end of unnecessary and inefficient jobs. Or it might lead to a dystopia. We are approaching the crossroads and we’ll have to turn left or right.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” — Peter Drucker

The gig economy

It’s different this time

Tuesday, 3 February, 2015 0 Comments

Since the Industrial Revolution, there’s been an almost insatiable demand for labour, despite the relentless advance of technology. So why should it be any different this time. Surely, the cloud will create millions of jobs and the app industry will generate global employment? Well, yes, maybe. But let’s consider this: It took the United States some 200 years to change from an agricultural economy, where 90 percent of the people worked on farms, to the current situation, where the number is nearer two percent. The robotics/AI revolution is happening faster than its industrial and digital predecessors — and it will present an even bigger challenge.

Technologies such as the self-driving car will be dramatically disruptive, but over a much shorter time-frame. There are millions of truck drivers working today. What will happen if self-driving vehicles put them out of a job in a matter of years? Algorithms are getting better at translating and writing — jobs that once required humans. So what will we do for work? That is the question being posed by the MIT academics Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who say that we’re entering a “Second Machine Age,ā€ where the increasing rate of change driven by information technologies could leave swathes of medium-and-low skilled workers in the slow lane. On the upside, the human ability to innovate offers grounds for hope. They say.